Image: Baptized into the family of God
In today’s first reading the Prophet Micah cries out to God on behalf of the people. God has judged them and found them wanting. They have failed to look out for the most vulnerable people in their communities, the poor, the widows, the orphans and the strangers. The people have become corrupt in their power and greedy in their wealth. Perhaps the worst is that they have taken up the worship of idols and foreign Gods and no longer look only to the one God who rescued them from the hands of the Pharaoh and brought them out of slavery in Egypt.
God has judged the people of Israel for their transgressions but the prophet pleads with God and asks God to forgive them and to bring them back from the brink of their own self-destruction. “Shepherd your people”, Micah implores, “let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.” It is an impassioned cry but there is little to offer as a defense. Why would God relent and reconcile when time and again the people have failed so terribly?
There is a very old saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” It is often interpreted to mean that the “blood” which connects family relations forms the strongest union. The relationship between Mothers and Fathers with their children and the bond between brothers and sisters from the same family are often considered to be unbreakable. So much so that a child can commit the most heinous crime and a mother, though heartbroken, will say that their love for their child still remains. But in today’s Gospel Jesus seems to question the primacy of this relationship.
While standing amidst a crowd of people the mother and his brothers of Jesus try to get his attention. He seems to deny the significance of his relationship with his biological kin and focuses instead on his disciples. As he speaks, Jesus redefines the most important relationships in his life by announcing that, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”. In doing so Jesus gives us a new definition for the meaning of blood relations and re-frames the meaning of the old saying.
For Jesus, blood is not the life-giving fluid that runs through our veins but instead refers to the blood of the covenant forged through the generations between God and the chosen people of Israel. This same covenant will soon be ratified by his own blood poured out on the cross. Jesus opens up the idea of what it means to be family allowing that all people who choose to come to the Father are his family, his brothers and sisters, and are to be called children of God.
This is why the prophet Micah’s testimony on behalf of the people does not fall on deaf ears. Because of the covenant, God will never abandon his people and, as long as they continue to come back, God’s embrace will always be open to them. The psalm today reminds of how often God generously forgives those who turn back to him, that he will restore the relationship that he has formed long ago and will make it new again. “You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger”. As a mother could never forsake her child, so God will never abandon us. Turn to the Lord and know that He will always be there for you.